Time and time again I hear stories from friends and readers about creating art as a way of restoring inner calm, and it certainly holds true for me. I came back from my Phoenix trip only to learn that there was a grave family emergency on my hands and I needed to immediately depart for Virginia.
When I returned to Boston and a voluminous amount of paperwork and emails that had accumulated while away, I yearned to simply hold a crayon and scribble like mad. When I’m stressed, upset, or trying to work through a difficult problem, I don’t usually run for the nearest box of chocolates, nor do something as cerebral as write my thoughts down in a journal. Rather, I color. I don’t usually sketch anything discernible; I love to take three to four crayons in analogous colors and use simple, broad, child-like strokes across the page, then move the colors around with a damp cosmetic wedge to watch them blend and brighten. Instant gratification!
My first night back from Virginia, I grabbed an old hardcopy of a book I use for altered book pages, and started gluing sets of pages together to make them strong enough for coloring. I took crayons in warm, vibrant hues––burnt sienna, sunset red, rust, and purple––and scribbled away. As I was smearing the colors with a wet cosmetic wedge, the resulting mixtures were too bright for my taste, so I took a damp paper towel and tried to blot some of the color. In doing so, I accidentally ripped the top page, revealing the glued page below. I then got the idea to color the bottom page before adhering it to the second (top) page so that I could purposely rip the top page to reveal the colored page underneath. The resulting backgrounds are complex, colorful, and the illegible text reminds me of ancient, cryptic scrolls that have been buried for centuries in the sand.
Materials:Pages from a hardcover bookGolden Gel Medium (regular matte)Coloring agents of choice (I use Lyra Aquacolor crayons and Portfolio® watercolor soluble oil pastels.) Cosmetic wedges
Optional:Clorox® Bleach PenPearl-Ex Powders Shiva PaintstiksAdirondack Color Wash ® in Butterscotch from RangerWalnut Ink
1. Color the base page. (I suggest a fairly bright color such as butterscotch yellow.)2. Take another page and glue on top of the base page using gel medium.3. Scribble with crayons or oil pastels on the top page.4. With a damp cosmetic wedge, smear and mix the colors together. Allow the page to dry.
5. Rub sandpaper in spots, pulling bits of the top page off. Take your fingers and gently rip the top page in parts, revealing the page below.
•You can further blend the colors of the top pages and bottom pages together by spraying both with walnut ink or color washes such as Adirondacks by Ranger. (I particularly like Butterscotch.)• Take a Clorox® bleach pen and create squiggles in areas. Allow to set for five minutes, then swipe these bleach spots with a paper towel.
• Take a damp paintbrush and dab some Pearl-Ex powders in metallic colors for a glittery effect.
Note: I have some alterations and expansions to this technique that I’ll be sharing at Make It University in Houston this fall. (More on M.I.U. later!)
So I ask you—what art activity do you do when you’re stressed? I invite you to respond to the blog, but if you’d also like your answer to be considered for print in Cloth Paper Scissors, feel free to fill out the questionnaire on this web page.